August 23, 2011

Trumpet these days

It's been a little while since I gave you an update on my progress on the horn so I thought I'd catch up a bit with that today.

The summer months have largely been overflowing with hours for me to fill with my own rigorous, but basically comfortable mixture of practice and rest. Even considering the AIMS experience, I'd looked at this summer as a relatively stress-free stretch of time I could use to overcome the last stubbornly lingering issues with my "new" embouchure, and more thoroughly incorporate the best things I'd learned from Charlie and Barbara into my playing. To a large extent I feel I've basically accomplished those goals, but as Fall quarter looms just under a month into the future, I'm starting to feel the pressure of impending auditions, and just a little bit of trepidation over jumping head on into another demanding year at NU. This time around I know more about what's in store...and just how thoroughly I will be challenged by it.

Here are my tasks for the next month in a nutshell:



movements 1 & 2 of Tomasi's Tryptique
and standard excerpts from:
Debussy, La Mer
Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue
Schumann, Second Symphony
Rimsky-Korsakov, Scheherazade
Strauss, Don Quixote and Ein Heldenleben

Everyone plays a pool audition during the first week of classes in order to be placed in the ensembles and--if you're among the winners--into each studio's excerpt class. By some miracle, last year I made it into excerpt class every quarter, so even though I know there are a bunch of new grad students coming in next year, the thought of losing the pools and not being in excerpt class grates against my naturally competitive nature.

The pools are basically set up to feel a lot like a professional orchestra audition with a proctor, a screen, and the whole bit, so it's also a good chance to test one's general audition effectiveness. Because I'll only be in the relatively blissful alternate reality of student life for one more school year, this aspect of the pools weighs heavily in my mind. A lot sooner than I'd like to acknowledge, I'll be out on my own and hoping that whatever education I got at NU prepared me well enough to be a serious contender on the audition circuit. As part of that education I'm trying to treat the pools with every bit as much thoroughness as I would any pro audition.

It would also be nice to demonstrate to Barbara and Charlie that I've continued to work hard even after all the difficulties I experienced over the past year. I'm still not sure I've given them the best impression of who Kelly Ricks is...and I would like to remedy that.



Torelli, Sonata in D for Trumpet and Piano
Peeters, Sonata
James Stevenson, Vignettes for Trumpet and Percussion

Due to the aforementioned "difficulties" that some of you may remember from...oh, about January through TODAY, I was not able to stick to the usual plan of completing one of my two required recitals during my first year as a grad student. As a result, I'll somehow have to manage both this year. My plan was to practice hard all summer and give a recital during the first couple weeks of fall quarter, and then prepare during the winter quarter to give my final performance in the spring. Now it seems more likely that I'll have to move recital #1 a little later into fall quarter so I'll have time to find a pianist, rehearse with the percussionist, and get some coaching from Charlie.

Today the rep is sounding decent. I've got almost everything up to performance tempo and I've made some progress training my embouchure to execute the quick switches between C trumpet, B flat trumpet, flugel horn, and piccolo trumpet required by the program I selected. The biggest remaining challenge will be developing the efficiency and endurance I'll need to make it through a full recital. Because of my embouchure issues this is treacherous ground--I need to work hard enough to build strength and improve efficiency, but not so hard that I injure myself. Yesterday I made it through the entire Peeters and the Stevenson and bits of the Torelli, but spread apart into two separate practice sessions. From here, I'd like to start playing through two pieces in one session, and then eventually (closer to the recital date) all three.


Repertoire (best case scenario):

Plog, Concerto No. 2, 1st mvt.

Every Wednesday throughout the school year the trumpet studios convene at noon for solo class. Usually, Barbara's and Charlie's studios meet separately, but for the first three weeks all of us combine as every student performs a solo with piano. The only restriction is that the piece must be for a "big" horn (B flat or C trumpet). These first three classes feel like a sort of debut. With all new students performing first, the veterans are introduced to the new faces (and perhaps even scope out the competition for the year), and in the two following weeks the rest of us demonstrate a little of what has occupied us all summer...which ideally has involved more trumpet playing than sunbathing.

For me, this solo class feels like an opportunity for me to say, "Ok guys, I know you had to put up with a lot from me over the past year--covering for me when I struggled, trying to ignore all the times I didn't quite make it in performance, and listening to my constant flow of excuses about my embouchure--but now I'm back and I'm ready to shoulder the load WITH you. I'm ready to be more colleague than project, and I'm looking forward to a good year." Of course I won't get up on stage and say that directly, but I'm hoping a strong performance will communicate the idea well enough.

Taking on the Plog again might be a bit of wishful thinking. I performed it years ago on my Juilliard senior recital, but it's a very technical piece that exploits the aspects of trumpet playing I've been struggling with most over the last year: range, and that all-important and ever-elusive BRILLIANCE of sound. Basically, if I can keep the "brilliance" happening (and by brilliance, I mean the sound as well as all the technical and physical things that result from the achievement of that sound), and I work out all the little finger and tongue twisters, I'm set. If it gets down to the wire and things don't seem to be working I can always just play a movement from the Peeters, but I would much prefer doing something different...taking that dang bull by the horns and rising to the challenge.


  1. GO KELLY!!! You have set the stage for a really exciting year! I will await the updates of your experiences with white knuckles. I sure LOVE YOU!!!!!

  2. BTW couldn't help but notice how much the reflection in the pond resembles the bell of a trumpet.